Three Ways Automotive Color Influences Buyers

Understand your market emotionally, internationally and demographically

Color is a critical selling point for vehicles. Outstanding color schemes, both interior and exterior, can be the tipping point that turns a casual browser into a serious shopper.

For decades, automotive manufacturers assumed that color appeal was the product of personal preference. Only a few basic generalizations were used to inspire color strategies. Not so today. Recent sensory perception research proves that colors have underlying meanings in the human subconscious. As a result, the ways in which manufacturers use color can profoundly affect how well a vehicle sells and who purchases it. In order to leverage the power of color, you should be aware of these three things:

1. Emotions Are Directly Tied to Color

Today’s materials technology now allows suppliers to create automotive components with unprecedented palettes. Interior-exterior color combinations that were once thought of as impossible are now attainable. Instrument panels and headliners can be created in virtually every color of the visible spectrum, giving suppliers the ultimate design freedom to create parts such as bright orange seats to match a sports car’s bright orange exterior.

With the newfound freedom to select vehicle colors comes a new set of challenges. In order to use color effectively, component manufacturers need to understand how consumers interpret colors and the emotions that they evoke. Various researchers have identified consumer perceptions about some of the most popular colors for vehicles, such as the following:


Bright red: Optimistic, dynamic, energizing, exciting, sexy, intense, stimulating, aggressive, powerful, energetic, dangerous

Burgundy: Vigor, elegance, richness, refinement, leadership, maturity, expensive

Blue: Truth, healing, tranquility, stability, peace, harmony, wisdom, trust, calm, confidence, protection, security, loyalty

Green: Nature, envy, healing, fertility, good luck, hope, stability, success, generosity

Brown: Stability, masculinity, reliability, comfort, endurance, simplicity, friendship

Dark Blue: Dignity, credibility, strength, authority, conservative, trustworthiness, traditional, quiet, confident, serene

2. Color Perception Varies Internationally

To successfully operate in a global marketplace, manufacturers need to recognize cultural differences in color perception. A color that has a positive interpretation in one country can connote quite a different notion in another. For instance:

  • Brown is the color of mourning in India. In Colombia, it is considered an undesirable color and can discourage sales.
  • In predominantly Catholic Ireland, orange is the color of Protestantism.
  • Green is associated with danger in some tropical countries.
  • In China, red is associated with good luck, while in India it’s associated with purity, and in other countries can denote danger.
  • Blue signifies immortality in China. To Hindus, it is the color of Krishna.
  • In some Asian cultures, bright yellow is a sacred imperial color.

3. Different Demographics Require Targeted Color Strategies

Recent studies have shown that men are now purchasing cars with brighter, nontraditional colors, witnessed by the fact that orange has become a popular choice for men in the last few years. Women tend to favor neutral colors – gold, silver and beige are the top three choices.

Luxury car buyers are inclined to purchase cars in colors that reflect the concept of wealth and, well, luxury. You get the idea. These are the rich colors seen in expensive materials such as hardwood, leather and precious metal.

High-end sports car buyers continue to favor strong colors that indicate speed and strength. Red, black and orange vehicles mimic the colors seen on racetracks and speedways, projecting an aura of in-your-face confidence.

Don’t forget that age, gender and income, among other factors, also play a role in color preference.

Implement a Color Usage Plan

Before you formulate a plan for utilizing color, try starting with these two steps:

Understand the market. Gain a clear understanding of the demographics targeted by each model, and how those potential consumers connect with color. Color trends in other industries, such as fashion and consumer goods, may provide useful insight into current customer preferences. Keep in mind that color usage will change as trends and tastes evolve.

Devise a color plan that takes all aspects of the vehicle into account. The methods and strategies behind color usage will vary depending on different car models and consumers. A brightly colored sports car, for example, may include some interior elements that echo the exterior color or may feature that color in most components. Either way, consumers expect an element of surprise and excitement. Conversely, consumers seeking a luxury sedan usually prefer a dignified interior with soothing colors, such as gray or brown, regardless of the exterior color. 

Questions about the use of color in the automotive or any other industry? Contact an expert at Avient today to start the conversation.

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